“Don’t Tell Us What To Do” – A Lesson in Behavior Change from Government-Imposed Warning Labels

Dont tell us what to do - crowd covering ears

Dont tell us what to do - crowd covering ears

“Why everything that supposed to be bad, make me feel so good?”Kanye West

We all know what is good for us but we keep indulging in harmful behavior: we smoke, we drink excessively, we sleep with our ex, we have an affair, we relapse into drugs, we get that stupid tattoo, and we send the angry, heat of the moment email against our better judgment. We watch ourselves do things we know we will regret even as our conscience screams Nooo!

“To promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a person want to go and do that very thing.” – Mark Twain

It gets worse when another person attempts to correct us. Let us get real, our problem is not lack of information. We have plenty of information, but information does not change our behavior.

“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do, I do.” – Romans 7:19

Cigarette Warning Labels in a German Shop
Cigarette Warning Labels in a German Shop

Cigarette pack warnings

Take cigarette smoking for instance. Despite all the incriminating evidence about tobacco, we continue to burn those butts. In fact, it makes no difference that information on the effects of smoking is placed right on the cigarette pack. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires that cigarette packaging incorporate warning messages to create awareness about the effects of smoking.

However, research shows that smokers ignore these health warnings. Even with the introduction of the health warnings, tobacco firms have continued to enjoy a significant increase in sales:

For instance, at the height of the awareness campaign on effects of smoking in 2008, Sterling’s Market share increased from 5% to 6.1% in four months. A few years later, Benson and Hedges Silver introduced a new slide pack which boosted their sales by 25% in six months and a further 32.5% within a year.

At some point, it was clear that adorning cigarette packaging with warning information was not doing anything in the fight against cigarette smoking.

Enter Graphic Warning Labels

In 2012, Australia introduced new packaging regulations for cigarettes. Other countries are said to be taking steps: Canada, France, Singapore, South Africa, amongst others.

  • No branding of the cigarette packs
  • Plain packaging
  • Confronting photos of smoking-related illnesses.

The results

Research shows that graphic images on cigarette packs do not scare away smokers:

  • Some smokers were angry with the warnings, feeling as if someone was trying to manipulate them; and being too much in their business.
  • Other smokers were found to buy and use slipcovers that come with the package. This way, they avoid seeing the images, regain some degree of control and carry on with their smoking. Some smokers even emptied the cigarettes in a separate container or covered the packets with stickers.
  • Yet, another study showed that smokers distorted the messages on the packs. Some male smokers would be seen selecting packets with health warnings related to pregnancy; while those with eye problems avoided the packs with warnings concerning eyes. It is as if the cigarettes in specific packets had different characteristics.
  • The most adverse finding was pregnant teenagers who smoked to reduce the weight of their unborn babies. They knew the effect the cigarettes would have on their bodies and their unborn babies: they wanted the effect.

Why don’t Graphic Labels work

One study showed that the main reason why the graphic warning labels do not work is that many of the smokers view them as a threat to their autonomy, freedom and choice. Generally, the human being is wired to resist ideas which he thinks are being imposed on him.

“We are striving after what is forbidden, and coveting what is denied to us.” – Ovid.

In fact, the graphic warning labels might just achieve the opposite reaction. The more the smokers perceive that their freedom is being threatened, the more they are attracted to carrying out the threatened behavior (smoking) to assert their independence. The images are seen to depict the government and other bodies which the smokers feel are trying to control them.

“Forbidden things have a secret charm.”Publus Cornelius Tacitus

What do these findings imply?

According to psychology, what is forbidden is always attractive. We are given to reactance. Reactance is motivation to indulge in things, rules, and offers that threaten our choices or limit our alternatives.

As a result, we strengthen a behavior or attitude that is contrary to what is expected. We indulge in prohibited behavior to not only taunt the prohibiting authority but also to prevent loss of further freedom. Indeed, when our choices are threatened, we become motivationally aroused.

“He did not want the apple for Apple’s sake. He wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent. Then, he would have eaten the serpent.” – Mark Twain.

Interesting research  – 2 studies on warnings and how to move towards what we really want

Study 1 – What Warnings Typically Do

Daniel Wegner, a University of Virginia psychologist, conducted the following research:

He put people in a room and installed a tape recorder. The then asked the participants to say out loud whatever came to mind with one caveat; they were not to think about a white bear.

Interestingly, the participants mentioned the bear about once a minute, despite having been told not to think about it. The participants said that they would try all sorts of tricks, but the bear kept sneaking back.

“One should never forbid what one lacks power to prevent.”Napoleon Bonaparte

Study 2 – Deprivation leads to obsession

A study showed that when people were semi starved, they thought about food every minute of the day. Long after the experiment, the participants reported that food became central to their lives. Even when they had enough to eat, they still felt so hungry they could not eat enough.

Any time somebody attempts to prevent us from enjoying something, one of the following happens:

  • We want it more
  • We rebel by reasserting our freedom
  • We get angry at the person curtailing our freedom.

So, do not be too hard on me or condemn me when you see me picking the wrong partner over and over again, when I spend on things that I do not need, when I neglect my body, when I reach for one more drink, or when I procrastinate.

After all, the bad decisions we make can be good for us. They help us to learn from our mistakes. Indeed, they can be the driving force behind those changes that we badly need to make our lives better.

What these 2 studies mean for the rest of us

To summarise the above two studies in one sentence…

It is what we focus on that makes the difference.

Because it’s what we focus on that is what we move towards. These studies put people in situations where they were almost made to focus on what something in particular (the bear and food).

So what should you be focusing on?

Are you focusing on the right things to bring love into your life? or are you unsure of what exactly to focus on. If you are unsure you can use habits to discover what to focus on and how to change your life for the better.

What Matters

What matters is that we keep trying to become better people every day. I wish you well as you seek to live a more fulfilling life. I have to go now. I want to eat that last cookie because I will finally start eating healthy tomorrow. I promise!

You can contact me here at RedesigningtheMind.com/contact

31 Health Affirmations and How to Make Them Work for You

Woman feeling happy and fit after doing some health affirmations

Woman feeling happy and fit after doing some health affirmations

YOUR BRAIN IS A POWERFUL ORGAN: it’s always rewiring itself, so you’ll never lose the ability to learn and change.

Those brain cells are pretty incredible too: they shoot messages around so efficiently, that signals can reach speeds of 267mph (430 km/h)! And if you ever got the urge (and the equipment) to measure your brain action while you’re sleeping, you’d find that it’s just as active at night as it is during the day.

That’s because it’s busy pumping your heart, digesting your food, maintaining your blood pressure and much more – all so you can wake up alive and kicking.

Consider this though: in a single day, 70,000 thoughts can pass through your brain. Some of these may be the same thoughts looping around over and over. Others will be new.

70,000

Imagine if all (or even a large proportion of) those thoughts were negative. Imagine if you had the same negative thought going around and around in a loop, thousands of times a day.

What do you think would happen?

Let’s break it down.

For starters, thoughts influence your beliefs. The beliefs you have about anything in your life are created over a period of time through a consistent (and constant!) way of thinking. If, for most of your adult life, you’ve thought about how much you hate cooking dinner, you’ll develop a really strong belief that cooking dinner is not a fun activity.

Your beliefs create and dictate your attitude, your attitude dictates your feelings, and your feelings have a huge impact on how you behave. This means that if you think you hate cooking dinner, you’ll probably end up ordering takeaway.

Yep. The brain is a powerful organ. And depending on the nature of the thoughts running through your head, this power can either work for you or against you. Luckily, you have, within you, the ability to influence whether your brain helps or hinders your progress in life.

The Brain and Health

Sometimes we have the desire to lead a healthier lifestyle, but we have no idea where to start. This can lead to what I like to call, a ‘follow frenzy’, where people turn to social media and start following tens (or hundreds!) of health, fitness, and wellness influencers.

While there are plenty of useful tips to be gleaned from people ‘in the know’, there are also many ‘un-useful’, and downright dangerous tips too. The other problem is, filling your feed with images of buff, toned athletes can do more damage than good. Because it’s just too easy to compare your body back to theirs.

These social media influencers lift weights and eat greens for a living, but it’s hard to remember that when you see their abs and immediately want them.

And when looking at these people’s perfect physiques, it’s very easy to remember the less-than-perfect parts of your physique. Like the bits of cellulite on your thighs and bum. Or the round pouch on your stomach that arrived along with baby number 2 (or the beer and tacos from last night’s dinner).

Remember what we said about how thoughts can shape your behavior though? Well, when you start thinking:

“The cellulite on my thighs is disgusting”

Then you’ll start believing it. And you’ll develop a negative attitude towards your legs. And no matter what you do – like going for a run every night after work – you’ll never feel good about your legs, or yourself for that matter.

So what would that do to your behavior? You might stop going to the beach to avoid having to show off your legs. You might stop wearing shorts – even in hot weather. You might stop going out in public full stop! I don’t think I need to tell you that this is no way to live.

What is the Answer?

When it comes to health and fitness, it’s never black and white. Everyone has their own hang-ups, their own idea of the ‘ideal body’, and their own goals.

But one thing is constant no matter what you are aiming to achieve, whether that be to gain or lose 10 pounds: negative thinking is a no-no. Positive thinking is better. Health affirmations (coupled with a healthy eating and exercise plan) are best!

Positive affirmations are designed to penetrate your subconscious thoughts and therefore change your actions, behaviors and attitude. More specifically, health affirmations can increase a feeling of well being and open your mind to making lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking, losing weight, or eating better.

So how does positive affirmations and thoughts bouncing around in your brain up to 70,000 times a day at 400 km/h sound?

Like a pretty incredible way to make the power of your mind work FOR you, rather than against you now doesn’t it?

Health Affirmations – For Eating Better, Getting Fitter and Strengthening Your Willpower

Achieving your idea of ‘health’ may mean you have to eat healthier foods and cut out the processed stuff. It may be that you need to move more. Or it may be that you have to cut out the cigarettes and alcohol. So, I have gone on an affirmation hunt, compiled the best of the best, and split them into three categories: ‘affirmations for healthier food choices’, ‘fitness affirmations’, and ‘affirmations for stronger willpower’.

10 affirmations for healthier food choices:

  1. My taste buds are changing every day – I no longer crave foods that don’t nourish me
  2. I listen for when I am satisfied and full
  3. This food is healing me
  4. I am willing to slow down and take this time to nourish myself
  5. I am so grateful for this wonderful food
  6. I am well nourished in preparation for the day ahead of me
  7. I am worth the time and money I invest in my health
  8. I am so grateful to be choosing food that supports my best health
  9. I have everything I need to help me prepare delicious, nutritious meals
  10. I am willing to take this time to nurture myself

You can find more like these here.

12 fitness affirmations:

  1. Being fit and vital is one of the top priorities in my life
  2. Daily exercise makes me feel alive and powerful
  3. Daily exercise makes me healthy and attractive
  4. Exercise improves my vitality and frees my soul
  5. Every action I take moves me towards my perfect body
  6. Every day I become more agile and lithe
  7. Every day my body becomes stronger and leaner
  8. Every day my body becomes younger and fitter
  9. Every physical activity I take part in, helps me to reach my ideal weight
  10. Every time I exercise I build more muscle and burn more fat
  11. Exercise does as much for my mental state as it does for my body
  12. Exercise greatly improves my positive self-image

If you feel like none of these have quite hit the mark, you can find a heap more here.

9 affirmations for stronger willpower:

  1. I am motivated at all times to do what I’m supposed to do
  2. I am in complete control of myself
  3. Being in control of my actions is the most natural thing in the world
  4. I can easily tap into my willpower
  5. Having control over my impulses is effortless
  6. I have an iron will
  7. I am disciplined
  8. I always keep on going no matter how hard things get
  9. Taking control of myself has given me nothing but success

You can find more here.

Some Final Tips to Help You Tap into the Power of Your Mind – and Use it for a Healthier You!

As I always say – pick the affirmations that resonate the most with you, and align best with what you are trying to achieve. For example, if you’re trying to hit the gym more regularly and refrain from drinking wine every night, then perhaps the following two affirmations would be a good start:

  • Being in control of my actions is the most natural thing in the world
  • Exercise does as much for my mental state as it does for my body

The most important thing is that you feel your affirmations on a deep level – and truly believe in them each and every time you say them.

This can only be achieved if you actually do believe the words you are saying. There’s no point in saying affirmations that you can’t grasp or conceive of. So choose ones that most accurately reflect your life and where you’re at – or create your own.

When you decide to become a healthier version of you – the ‘you’ you’ve always dreamed of being, then the combination of right health plan AND health affirmations will truly take you to the next level. So get your post-it notes out and start writing your favorite health affirmations down. What have you got to lose – apart from excess fat, a smoking addiction, or unhealthy lifestyle?

I’ll tell you what: nothing.